You don't have to use any type of sweetener in your whipped cream, although many cooks and dessert-lovers wouldn't consider such a thing. Whipped cream adds a dimension that just isn't there otherwise, and homemade whipped cream makes it even more luxurious, once you get the technique down. As for those sweeteners you don't need but don't want to do without, there's a bit of science involved when making your decision.
Argument for Powdered Sugar
When you are looking for instructions on how to make sweetened homemade whipped cream, you will see powdered sugar or confectioners sugar as the sweetener of choice, more often than not. Powdered sugar has a finer texture than granulated sugar and dissolves into the cream more easily for a smoother texture, but that isn't the only reason. Powdered sugar also helps homemade whipped cream hold its shape, because it has a small amount of cornstarch in it, which is a natural whipped cream stabilizer.
The Choice Is Yours
Although powdered sugar tends to work well in whipped cream, you can use granulated sugar if that's all you have, or if you prefer it for some reason. If you use granulated and it seems that your whipped cream isn't as stable as you'd like, you can add about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for each 1 cup of cream to help firm it. You can also try maple syrup, or a combination of sweeteners if you're looking for a different taste or texture. Vanilla, cocoa powder and various liqueurs are also acceptable flavorings for homemade whipped cream.
A sweet, cushiony pillow of whipped cream has a home in scores of different dessert creations. Whipped cream makes a suitable topping for cakes, custards, pies, fruit salads, ice cream sundaes or banana splits, as well as drinks like hot chocolate or coffee beverages. Whipped cream goes well with strawberry shortcake, mousses, puddings and pastries. Whether you prefer a small dollop or a heaping mound, virtually any sweet treat becomes elevated when whipped cream enters the picture.
Regardless of the type of sweetener you decide to use, transforming liquid cream into whipped cream requires some technique and is accomplished easier when you keep some basic tips in mind. Keep the cream as cold as you can before whipping, and use a chilled metal bowl for optimum results. If you can chill the whisk or beaters, that is also a good idea. Start off slowly with the beating to minimize splatters and increase the speed as it thickens. If you use powdered or granulated sugar, add it after the cream has formed soft peaks so it doesn't lose volume, but stop beating after stiff peaks are formed or you'll risk making sweetened butter.